Desk Organisation Ideas: How to manage stress & be more productive

Does your anxiety start to rise as soon as you get to your desk? My desk organisation ideas will help manage your stress and improve your productivity. Whether your desk is at the office or at home (or both), these desk organisation ideas will de-clutter both your physical space and your mind. In this article I am going to show you how to set up your desk in a way that will reduce your day-to-day work stress and help you get more done. You can then download my next steps workbook to put in place the processes that will help you to use your new desk space.

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Desk organisation ideas: why do it?

Did you know that humans have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts every day, and that 98% of those thoughts are THE SAME as the day before? 

One big reason to organise your desk is because it is the first step to setting up the processes that will take day-to-day thoughts out of your head, and clear space for creativity. Every time you are thinking about a call you need to make at some point this week, it is taking up space in your mind and adding to your overall anxiety. By taking that thought out of your head and recording it within your new organisational processes, you will get that call scheduled and you will create space to think about more useful things.

The first step to reducing stress, and curating mental calm, is to sort out your workspace.

Desk organisation ideas: let’s sort out your desk space

If you are sorting your desk at work there is probably a lovely stationary cupboard you can raid – the time I have spent stealing from work stationary cupboards! Sshhhh 🙂

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If you are are managing your home desk I promise you that what I am about to suggest will not be expensive, and I can give you some suggestions of what I have bought myself. It will also be an investment into your mental health and quality of work.

  • Paper in tray – I love my MADE Alida office accessories in punchy yellow that brightens up my desk. The in tray is where you will keep all your paperwork that still needs you attention. In my step by step guide I will show you how to clear the in tray regularly to reduce work stress and be productive.
  • Calendar – so this doesn’t need to physically be on your desk. Most of us now use the calendar that comes with Outlook or with Gmail. Just choose your preference. In my step by step guide I will show you exactly how to maximise your calendar to keep your mind clear for much more useful tasks.
  • Filing cabinet or box – ok so this won’t be ON your desk, but it is crucial for your desk organisation. If you are sorting out your office workspace then 9/10 you will be given filing capabilities. If like me you have a home desk you are organising you can invest in your own filing cabinet. However, a filing cabinet doesn’t fit in with the space and aesthetics of my work space, so I chose a white filing box from Leitz. This fits on the shelf behind my desk and looks good! In my step by step guide I show you exactly how to file your documents for ease and increased productivity.
  • Filing folders – it helps to have some stand up paper filing boxes or folders. if you have a large enough filing cabinet system these may not be 100% necessary and it will also depend on the nature of your job. Mine came in my MADE office accessories pack.
  • Sheets of paper – A stack of loose A4 paper can be an extremely effective tool for decluttering all the data in your brain and also making you more productive. If you don’t like the idea of a stack of paper, then I suggest notebook that has paper with perforated edges that you can easily tear out.
  • Pens, sticky notes, stapler and clips – In our age of technology these items can seem obsolete but all of them are crucial for when you have sudden thoughts of tasks you need to complete. Therefore you need to get them out of your head and into your in tray, ready to be properly processed and actioned.

Desk organisation ideas: let’s tidy up your papers!

So if you are like 99% of the people I have come across your desk will have at least one pile of paper waiting for you to go through, desk draws of random bits and bobs, and also paper you ‘might need one day’ filling up a filing cabinet.

This desk environment will increase your general levels of work stress and will also stop you from working as efficiently as you could be. So let me help you sort it out.

Let us work through the following steps:

  1. Schedule some time to sort out your workspace – this may take some time and so I recommend putting aside time when you know you have less chance of being interrupted. I also recommend not doing this after work when you will be tired, and care a lot less about the outcome!
  2. Take every document on your desk, every pile of papers, any magazines lying around and put it on your desk – for the purposes of sorting out your desk these piles will be your ‘in tray’ stacks. You need to go through every document and separate the documents into the following categories:
    • Rubbish
    • Reference
    • Action
  3. Rubbish  – put all rubbish in the shredder, recycling or sensitive documents bin.
  4. Reference – put all paper you think you may need at another point in time, and so they are worth keeping, into your filing cabinet.
  5. Action – any documents that need one or more action in order to be completed need to go into your in tray
  6. Go through your desk draws – Categorise everything in your draws into the same three categories. This time any object that falls under ‘reference’ can stay in your draw or be moved to another cupboard. Any object that falls under ‘action’ does not need to go into your in tray, simply write it down on a piece of paper and put that in your in tray. E.g. put batteries into dictaphone.
  7. Go through your mental clutter – there will be things you need to get done that are not written down on your stacks of paper. These are all the things rattling around in your head, going round and round causing you stress. Now write down on a single sheet each thought and put that into your in tray. At this point it doesn’t matter if how trivial a task may seem (e.g. pick up coffee on way home), just jot it down and put it in your tray.
  8. Go through your voicemails – transfer them to paper and put that into your in tray. You can do this for your emails as well, or you can flag those emails to remind you that they also need to be processed.
  9. Go through existing ‘to do’ lists – write down on single sheets of paper each task on your existing to do list, or tear it out of your notebook and put that into your in tray as well.

Desk organisation ideas: make your filing system inviting!

If your filing system is not a) easy to access and b) easy to use, then the chances of you actually using it rapidly decreases.

My filing box is sat right behind my desk. I don’t keep anything stacked on top of the lid that may deter me from filing documents as soon as they need to be filed. I can easily whip the lid off, find the right folder, and file my document.

Make sure you label each folder clearly and I also recommend categorising them alphabetically. Does that sound a little obsessive? I promise you that when that letter comes through from the bank with how much you have left on the mortgage that you will be happy to quickly skip to ‘Finances’ and file that document out of sight!

By having a easy to access and easy to use filing system you will ensure that documents don’t build up on your workspace, and that you always know where to find them.

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Desk organisation ideas: next steps

Now you have all the equipment you need, your desk space is clearing up and you have a comprehensive filing system. But what about that pile of documents in your in tray that needs sorting out? Download my Desk Organisation Guide now and this will take you through how to upgrade your to do list and restore order to your world!




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